I love books. Not just for the power of conveying an idea through a printed form, but also for the emotional significance of actually holding a book in your hands. More and more recently I have been books become a brilliant marketing tool for everyone, from political candidates to technology companies. Along the way, there are several ideas that I have collected for how using a book could be an effective part of a marketing strategy. Here are a few:

  1. Explain a complex idea – Some businesses or product lines are based on something complex that is not easily understood. One example of using a book to explain a concept like this was a book Microsoft was handing out earlier this year at CES about their Windows Home Server product. It was called "Mommy, Why Is There a Server in the House?" and took a kids book approach to explaining why anyone would want a server in their home.
  2. Commission an existing author or writer – This can be a great way to build on an existing author’s profile and audience by working with him or her to commission a new piece. Hilton Hotels used this strategy as part of their Olympic marketing effort when they commissioned an award-winning kids author named Todd Parr to create a new book for them around their marketing tagline "Be Hospitable." Johnson & Johnson used a similar strategy back in 2002 with Understanding Children, a book they supported the creation of from Richard Saul Wurman (well known author and creator of the TED conference).
  3. Partner with a "co-author" – There are two types of situations to use a co-author – the first is if you are actually a team and share similar ideas that you want to publish together. The second is to get someone who will do the actual writing while you help to provide direction and content. This second method is the one usually preferred by politician or famous person when they get a writer to help them create a "tell-all" biography of their lives.
  4. Offer a book template – Though in a very different category, the Disease Control Priorities Project has an interesting way of distributing their content in a book form. You can go online, select various chapters from a group of publications and create your own book. The model of offering a template and letting people assemble their own books with your branding/message integrated is one that could work in many other industries.
  5. Commemorate an experience – Art galleries use this technique often, creating limited edition books that commemorate their exhibits and the artwork contained in them. They work well because the art is so visual and many of these exhibits can be gatherings of work that will be dispersed after the exhibit and never again brought together – so the book seems very archival and worthwhile.
  6. Organize a collaboration – There are some great examples of this technique – from Seth Godin’s The Big Moo collaborative book a few years ago, to the Age of Conversation parts 1 and 2 (Disclaimer – I am a contributing author to Part II) which gathered together lots of contributors and invited them to write on a related theme to bring all these pieces together into a book. The resulting publication is often something that has built in marketing support as all the contributors will promote it to their networks.
  7. Sponsor a branded printing – This may be the simplest way to use a book for marketing as you are basically using a book that has already been published which aligns to your product or brand in some way and reprinting a branded edition. Pretty much any book ever published can be reprinted in a branded version, usually with a new custom foreword or different cover depending on the number of units purchased.